The Bliss family has a secret. A lot of bakeries say that their pastries are like magic but their pastries really are magic. Oldest daughter Rose loveThe Bliss family has a secret. A lot of bakeries say that their pastries are like magic but their pastries really are magic. Oldest daughter Rose loves helping out in the kitchen but she hasn't been allowed to do much more than fetch ingredients and she's never been entrusted with any magical recipes. But when both parents are called away for a week to help a neighboring town, they leave Rose with a key to the magic recipe book. Coincidentally, their long-lost "aunt" Lily rolls into town just as the Bliss parents are leaving and she seems awfully curious about the bakery...
What a cute read! I just loved it! Rose is the responsible one in the family and it's starting to wear on her. She's a little tired of watching her brothers have all the fun while she isn't even allowed to do any real baking. Anyone can bake a scone; Rose wants to bake a love muffin.
The misadventures the Bliss children have while their parents are gone just amused me to no end. Their solutions to their problems are more and more creative but they just cause bigger and badder problems.
Aunt Lily is just enough of a suspicious character to keep Rose on alert, but she's smooth enough that Rose is able to forget about her for little bits of time too. It's obvious she's up to something, it's just not entirely obvious how she intends to do it.
The siblings learn lessons about family and listening to their parents and trusting their instincts and each other, but the book does not beat you over the head with them.
This was cute enough that I looked forward to getting on the elliptical machine so I'd have time to read it. Need I say more? I'll be searching out the second book soon....more
June Bentley "Jubie" Watts is 13 years old in 1954 when her mother decides to take all four of her children to visit her brother in Pensacola, FloridaJune Bentley "Jubie" Watts is 13 years old in 1954 when her mother decides to take all four of her children to visit her brother in Pensacola, Florida. As any affluent housewife of the time would do, she asks the maid to come along on the trip to help take care of them. Jubie does a lot of growing up on this trip and her eyes are opened to pervasive, ugly prejudice.
I liked Jubie, I really did. She had spunk and she questioned the attitudes that everyone else accepted and made their own. She still has the heart of a child and she questions why her kind, intelligent maid should be treated as inferior because of the color of her skin. But I didn't entirely trust her as a narrator and I'm not sure if I was supposed to. I guess everyone feels like their parents were harder on them than on their siblings, but it's taken to an extreme here. One part in particular was devastating to read. Jubie's dad is an alcoholic who apparently only takes his temper out on her.
It didn't seem entirely realistic to me that Jubie's story would be told almost completely through the filter of race. There is very good reason that she would have become hyper-aware of the issue through the lens of time but I didn't feel like she was looking back on these events from far in the future. They felt pretty immediate. I just felt that a 13-year-old girl would have had more distractions, I guess.
I did appreciate that the author tackled the actual violence of the times. Other books set around the Civil Rights era hint at it but then either nothing terribly bad happens or the brutality is in the background. The violence is the heart of this book and it left me so sad and disgusted. I just don't understand people who judge based on skin color and I definitely don't understand those who think it's permissablenecessary to injure or kill someone because of it.
I really, really liked Mary, the maid. She had a huge, courageous heart. She bravely stands up for Jubie when Mr. Watts is on the rampage, she loves all the children in ways that their mother can't, and she is not afraid to reprimand her employers or their guests when they start making disparaging, prejudiced remarks. The world would be a better place if there were more Marys.
I was surprised to find myself respecting Mrs. Watts in the end. I don't know if I ever liked her but she comes a long way throughout the book. Her growth surprised me.
In one way, this was a quick, easy read, but in another, it was so difficult to get through. When you're feeling brave enough to confront some of the senseless ways that people hurt each other, pick this up....more
Jacky Faber finds herself working for the Royal Navy again after being mistakenly pressed into service. The ship she finds herself on is in bad shape,Jacky Faber finds herself working for the Royal Navy again after being mistakenly pressed into service. The ship she finds herself on is in bad shape, with a sick, evil captain who reigns with an iron fist and who has let his boat and his crew get into bad shape. Nothing can keep Jacky down for long though and she's soon making friends and plans in equal measure.
I cannot express how much I love listening to Katherine Kellgren narrate this series. She doesn't hold anything back and narrates in a larger-than-life tone that is completely in keeping with Jacky's character. Kellgren sounds like she is having the time of her life reading these books and that makes me love them all the more.
I would love them anyway because Jacky is such a great character. Why do we tend to love girls who dress up as boys and live the life they want? I probably just answered my own question. She's loyal and fierce and sly and intelligent and greedy and too big for her britches. She's a big mess of contradictions and that makes her feel so darn real.
My one complaint about this book is that we have to travel down the road of an older man trying to prey on attractive young Jacky again. It's a different man, but, really. Teenage girls of any era do have things to worry about other than lecherous old men trying to have their way with them. It didn't take up as much of the book as I was afraid it would but as soon as it came up I rolled my eyes and thought, "Here we go again."
Jaimy is starting to get on my nerves too. He's as fussy and as much of a stickler for the rules as a prissy old maid. I forget what Jacky see in him. He only sees the woman that Jacky could have been if her early years had been different, not the impetuous, ambitious ragamuffin that she actually is.
Other than that, this book was full of adventure, drama, suspense, and laughs. It is everything that a good story should be.
This series is a blast and girls who can see the appeal of living life on your own terms will love it. I highly, highly recommend trying it out on audio....more
Scarlett O'Brien dreams that her life will one day become just like a romantic comedy. Her friends and family worry about her because she seems to beScarlett O'Brien dreams that her life will one day become just like a romantic comedy. Her friends and family worry about her because she seems to be dissatisfied with the life she has because of her obsession with the movies. She's engaged to be married in a couple of months but she just doesn't seem to be very excited at the prospect.
When the opportunity to house-sit in Notting Hill comes along, everybody, including Scarlett, thinks it's a great idea. Those who care about her think it will give her time away from her fiance to think about what's really important to her. Scarlett is excited because it's the setting of her favorite movie. And what better place to live scenes from a movie and prove to her loved ones that life really can be like the movies?
This was cute but the underlying premise felt weak. I would be rocking right along, enjoying all Scarlett's misadventures and then something like, "Yet another movie moment for my collection! I knew I'd show everyone!" would come up. It was unnecessary and because of that, it kept pulling me out of the story. I think this could have been slightly re-worked to change that foundation and made into a stronger book.
That aside, I really did enjoy it.
I liked Scarlett a lot when she wasn't trying to orchestrate a scene from Pretty Woman or Sleepless in Seattle. She is an insecure dreamer who feels like she's missed out on something by never knowing her mom. She has a great group of friends and she actually knows it. And I mostly like her taste in movies. Luckily, there was an index at the end that listed them all. I'm in the mood to watch a lot of them again after reading this. My poor husband...
There's another character that I really like but I'm afraid talking about him/her would be a spoiler, so I'll skip it.
The situations that Scarlett gets herself into just cracked me up! A Star Wars wedding, a Disney wedding, being escorted home by the police, hanging from a balcony... Yes, it's a little goofy, but I'm grinning just thinking about it.
Fans of romantic comedies will definitely like this one....more
Yunior has cheated one too many times. The smartass Dominican narrator of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is just not in a good place. In a serieYunior has cheated one too many times. The smartass Dominican narrator of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is just not in a good place. In a series of short stories set around different events in his life, he reflects on how he has arrived at this point.
This is so hard for me to rate!
I was not happy through most of these stories. I really, really, really liked Yunior in Oscar Wao. Would I ever date him? Absolutely not. Did I like him? Yes. He was a screw-up at best but he seemed to have his life together by the end of that book. At least from what I remember.
But this shows us that he doesn't. He can't seem to change his ways.
He relates affairs, his relationships with his brother and his father, his friends' affairs.... This is not a happy romcom by any stretch of the imagination.
I still loved Yunior's voice, I just wanted to smack him around until he became the person I knew he could be.
And then I read the last page and a half. Yes. That close to the freaking end of a book that was at best three stars, Junot Díaz rocked my world. I understood where Yunior was coming from and what he was trying to do. I understood what he was saying. And I loved it. I had goosebumps, it was so perfect. I am not lying. I started seeing what was going on and I got more and more excited and then I read the last sentence and I was in love. It was perfection. Seriously. I immediately wanted to flip to the front and start over and see how my perspective shifted now that I got it. But the library book is due tomorrow so I don't have time for that. I probably need a little distance anyway.
There is one story written from a female point of view. As far as I could tell, she didn't have anything to do with Yunior but she added another layer to the threads of the immigrant experience and fidelity in relationships.
There is a lot going on in this slim book. Families, illness, immigration, relationships, starting over, loss, and more I can't think of right now. None of it was particularly easy to read, but with this book, Junot Díaz has made me a fan for life. I recommend it if a a very stark reality and tough themes don't turn you off....more
Sophronia Temminick is a tomboy in Victorian England. The youngest of innumerable sisters, she is left alone to pretty much do as she pleases. What plSophronia Temminick is a tomboy in Victorian England. The youngest of innumerable sisters, she is left alone to pretty much do as she pleases. What pleases her is climbing dumbwaiter shafts, spying on her sisters, and generally acting in ways not becoming to a lady. When she is packed off to finishing school one day, she is not pleased.
She quickly realizes this is not just any finishing school. Mademoiselle Geraldine's staff trains young women in "The Fine Art of Finishing Others." These are lessons Sophronia can enjoy. Distraction, poison, espionage, subterfuge--she enjoys it all. But there is a serious plot afoot and one of Sophronia's classmates seems to be at the heart of it. Sophronia is determined that she and her friends will discover the secret.
I just adore Gail Carriger's books and her young adult series does not disappoint. Some authors writing YA for the first time will dumb down their writing but Ms. Carriger is most definitely not guilty of that. She writes with all the wit she normally employs, she just happens to be writing about teenagers. I tore through the book, grinning all the way through.
I enjoyed seeing a few characters from The Parasol Protectorate in this new series. They're younger and, of course, more inexperienced, which made it all the more entertaining. The forbidding Lady Kingair as an awkward adolescent and the inscrutable Genevieve Lefoux as a mischievous scamp were endearing.
Sophronia is every inch the formidable heroine I expected her to be. She's young and makes some mistakes but she's also practically fearless and loyal. She makes friends in unusual places and doesn't seem to have any prejudices. She just takes people as they are. Her friend Dimity is hilarious! Of course there are mean girls in her class and they are fun to hate.
If you enjoyed The Parasol Protectorate, you should enjoy this series as well. If you haven't tried either yet, what are you waiting for?...more
Fermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that heFermín Romero de Torres is finally getting married. He's got one problem though--he's living under an assumed name. He has absolutely no proof that he legally exists. How is he supposed to get married without all the paperwork to prove that he is whom he says he is? As he explains this to Daniel Sempere, his history is finally explained in more detail, as well as his tie to David Martín, hero of The Angel's Game.
Eh. It was better than The Angel's Game but still a long way from The Shadow of the Wind. I love Fermín, so I enjoyed delving into his story, painful as that was. But the plot felt like filler between books. It feels like there has to be a fourth book in this loose series and The Prisoner of Heaven is just a placeholder. There were some revelations that clarified a few points and set up some definite conflict for future books, but there wasn't enough going on to justify an entire book. At least it was short.
I also missed Ruiz Zafón's gorgeous writing. It didn't even feel like the same author/translator team, although it was. It was just a story, pure and simple. I didn't feel any desire to mark any passages at all. I don't know who fell down on the job here, but it just wasn't up to the standard I've set for this pair.
I'll give The Cemetery of Forgotten Books one more try, but I'm starting to wonder if The Shadow of the Wind was just a fluke. I sincerely hope not. ...more
Adam Snow gets lost in the countryside on a drive back to London one evening and finds himself at a derelict house. He gets out of the car to look aroAdam Snow gets lost in the countryside on a drive back to London one evening and finds himself at a derelict house. He gets out of the car to look around and feels a small hand slip into his. There's no one else there. He takes the memory of the hand with him and remembers it as a comforting presence. But then he starts to have panic attacks, near misses, and inexplicable urges to harm himself. The small hand obviously does not bear him good will.
Eh. This was more Gothic than horror so I feel that it was too short to really work up some good suspense. Gothic novels are such a slow burn that they almost have to be chunksters to really pull me in and get my nerves on edge. At less than 200 pages, the events of this book happen relatively quickly and feel rushed and even a little obvious. The basic premise is very solid though and I think I would have enjoyed a longer book much more than I did this one.
Being so short, it is worth a try if you're interested or if you're in the mood for a little Gothic fun though....more
Professor Gary Fuller sets out to fill in the gaps in your geography knowledge.
I would guess that I know a little more geography than the average AmerProfessor Gary Fuller sets out to fill in the gaps in your geography knowledge.
I would guess that I know a little more geography than the average American but I'll be the first to admit that I'm still woefully lacking. I downloaded this book on a nook Free Friday (I believe), thinking that I might learn a thing or two.
I sure did! I wish more of it had stuck with me, but I now know that camels originated in North America, the first country you come to if you go directly south of Detroit is Canada (I'm ashamed that I didn't know that one) and if you go directly south of Chicago, you'll run into the Pacific ocean, not South America (again, I'm ashamed that I didn't know that). There were lots more facts packed into this little book, all presented in a fun, entertaining way. I actually had a hard time putting the book down!
The format of the book worked really well for me. The chapters were short and began with a series of questions. That's the one thing I didn't like. By the time I got to the answer, I'd forgotten what the question was and there often wasn't much of a contextual clue. I would have had an easier time with a physical copy, just marking the question page, but I wasn't willing to go clicking back through the pages on my nook.
Trivia lovers should really enjoy this book, and I highly recommend it!...more
In this true story, Roy and Silo are two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo who don't quite fit in. They don't take any notice of the femIn this true story, Roy and Silo are two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo who don't quite fit in. They don't take any notice of the female penguins and instead form their own little family.
What an adorable little book! The illustrations by Henry Cole are charming. The story of Roy and Silo is sensitively written for the young ones. I was sad as they tried to nest and then uplifted when little Tango came along. All in the space of 30 or so pages. And I just love that the story is completely true.
Much as I wish this world were more accepting, this book is not going to be for all families. If your family can handle it, I do recommend the book. It's a good introduction for children to the concept of families that are a little different but that are still built on love....more
Buck is a dog's dog, in and out of the house, accompanying the masters around at well, and just generally living the good life in California. But whenBuck is a dog's dog, in and out of the house, accompanying the masters around at well, and just generally living the good life in California. But when the Alaskan gold rush starts, big dogs are suddenly worth a small fortune because of their ability to pull fully-laden sleds. Buck is furtively sold by one of the gardeners and he finds himself in a veritable Hell on earth, but this version of Hell is frozen over.
But Buck is a survivor and he adapts to his new circumstances. No, he doesn't adapt; he thrives.
This was shelved in the juvenile section of my local library, and I have to say that surprises me a little bit. It's just that the vocabulary seemed pretty tough for the juvenile crowd. Had I read this as a pre-teen, I would have hated it. I would have been focused on Buck being kidnapped and how hard his life was in Alaska.
Now that I'm a little older, I appreciate the book more. Some parts bothered me, as Buck passed through the hands of various owners, some of whom were vicious. I'm pretty sure I just skimmed through the worst of the beatings. I ultimately found myself admiring Buck's strength. He thrived on his work and he thrived on being the Alpha dog. He was ultimately in his element. The harsh life he found himself in brought out some of his worst and best qualities. Isn't it funny how the two just naturally go hand in hand in some situations? He's a bully but he's a survivor. He's a natural leader. He has a boundless capacity for love. He's a hard work. He's intuitive. He gives his all to every task he's given. There's a lot to admire in him, even when he's practically feral.
The essay writer I keep buried (deeply) within sees the potential here for a great essay on the nature of man and beast and how our civility is nothing more than a thin veneer over our baser instincts. Some of my favorite parts in the book are when buck's ancestral memories come bubbling up and he can remember his ancestors living with cave men at the dawn of time.
If you can get through the sections of abuse, I do recommend this classic adventure tale. It's a quick read, it left me thinking, and it would be perfect to read as a winter storm blows outside. ...more